It was no accident that grain grower and seed producer David Verner from Korunye, South Australia, was in the first issue of Ground Cover talking about a new variety of wheat. His son Richard, who has worked on the farm since 1994, says both his father and grandfather were very interested in pastures. “They tried sub clovers, medics, lucernes, rye grass, basically anything to see what would take.”
David Verner passed away last year and Richard is carrying on the family business. “We still produce that certified seed and we still produce the descendants of some of the very early ones that my father and grandfather would have put in.”
Mr Verner says his father was “instrumental in introducing lentils as a viable crop in SA and Victoria, and he had a lot to do with the end point royalty system. He tried to make it equitable for farmers and breeders, and others in the seed chain.”
He thinks his father put as much work into the industry as he did into his farm and seed business. Mr Verner firmly believes the most beneficial research has been in plant breeding. “Peas and lentils have seen the biggest quantum leaps forward. Beans are a little bit further behind. Wheat, I have probably been lucky in the 18 years I’ve been here full-time. There was a fairly big wave of relatively new varieties, and then a second wave of newer varieties that set the bar for the last five to eight years.”
Mr Verner estimates those improvements in plant breeding have brought benefits of at least 10 per cent over the past decade. And that means once farmers hear about a new, improved variety they are quick to take it up.
“Sometimes a variety will have sold itself well before we release it, and that is due to the trial scheme and GRDC articles. We often get people ringing up, saying, ‘I read about this in Ground Cover’,” he says.